Wuthering Heights the novel is full of many themes. There is passion, revenge, and destruction within the novel. There are also darkness and light, heaven and hell, storm and calm, love and hate, crime and punishment, ignorance versus education, nature versus culture and life and death within it. The main contrasts in the book are between the two houses that are the homes to most characters in the novel, Thrushcross Grange and Wuthering Heights with the former representing heaven, light and peace, and the latter more reminiscent of hell, dark and hostility.
The houses feature so much in this novel, with even the title “Wuthering Heights” being the name of one of them, it could be said that the two houses almost take place as characters themselves. The book (as well as many of the characters contained within it) has a sensation of the wild and desolate. The actual physical landscape of the novel is described in such a way that it reflects the emotional landscapes of many of those who live within it. Emily Bronti?? wrote Wuthering Heights in the mid 19th Century, a time when Gothic novels were popular. A typical Gothic novel has elements of horror, supernatural, cruelty, terror and suspense.
Usually set in monasteries or castles, Gothic novels and romances were gloomy frightening books, and Emily Bronti?? took all these themes and added more, although throughout the novel, Wuthering Heights has a strong and gritty thread of realism. Emily Bronti?? ‘s writing works on the reader through suggestion rather than through direct explanation. She weaves in subtle indications of characters and events through weather and emotions, through buildings and boundaries and through night and day. Wuthering Heights is a stone building set on the moors.
It represents the personalities of the characters that grow up or reside within it, and it is not until the end of the novel that we see lightness and happiness associated with it. Words used whilst describing the house such as wild, hostile and raw are often felt by the reader to describe the characters that live there, such as Heathcliff, Catherine, Joseph and Hareton and Hindley. It seems to throb with life and energy; Lockwood upon his first visit to the Heights uses words like “villainous” “lurking” and “shameless” which are words more suited to describe humans than buildings and furnishings.
One of the main protagonists Heathcliff, whose very name suggests to the reader his nature, that of being barren wild, desolate and everlasting, lives at Wuthering Heights. We are first introduced to him by way of the diary of Mr. Lockwood as he calls at Wuthering Heights to introduce himself, having just taken tenancy of Thrushcross Grange. On the first page of the novel, within the first paragraph, Lockwood vividly describes Heathcliff as he approaches him at Wuthering Heights, “… I beheld his black eyes withdraw so suspiciously
under his brows, and when his fingers sheltered themselves with a jealous resolution, still further in his waistcoat. “(p. 21). When Heathcliff first speaks, his words are uttered through closed teeth, and immediately a parallel is drawn between Heathcliff’s clenched teeth and jealous fingers and the gate that Lockwood is reluctantly invited to walk through being chained against entry. The second parallel is on the following page with the description of Wuthering Heights’ exterior echoing the recent appearance of Heathcliff’s eyes.
Lockwood describes, “The narrow windows are deeply set in the wall, and the corners defended by large jutting stones”. He also describes a strong sense of the inhospitability of the building when he says “‘Wuthering’ being a significant provincial adjective descriptive to which its station is exposed in stormy weather… the excessive slant of a few stunted firs at the end of the house… a range of gaunt thorns all stretching one way as if craving the alms of the sun”. (p. 22) Heathcliff’s arrival at Wuthering Heights is that of the typical outsider.
Mr Earnshaw returns to his family from a visit to Liverpool, and reveals the child Heathcliff hidden beneath his coat. Nelly Dean describes Heathcliff in her narrative as a ‘dirty, ragged, black-haired child;'(p. 56). He is named after Earnshaw’s dead son, and a sense of the supernatural, ghostliness seems to surround his character immediately. The defining motifs of Heathcliff’s character are his determination and his desire for revenge – he is prepared to go to any length to achieve that which he desires. Heathcliff’s character develops throughout the novel, as he is able to reinvent himself.
To Catherine, he is both brother and lover. He is consumed by his obsessive love of Catherine. After her death, he is haunted by guilt, sees her spirit everywhere and yearns to be reunited – ‘the entire world is a dreadful collection of memories that she exists and that I have lost her. ‘ (p. 356) Catherine also embodies the spirit of the Wuthering Heights; she is wild in spirit, selfish, passionate and often cruel as a child. When Lockwood stays the night at Wuthering Heights, he reads some of her diaries whilst staying in what used to be her bedroom.